Vail Mountain School students create inspirational short films | VailDaily.com

Vail Mountain School students create inspirational short films

VAIL — As any of the filmmakers in town for this weekend's Vail Film Festival will tell you, everything begins with writing.

Laurie Stavisky's Vail Mountain School fifth-graders created dozens of short documentaries and then spent two days watching and critiquing them.

Of the six or seven weeks the fifth-graders spend creating their documentaries, more than half is spent on writing and re-writing. If you're going to screen three dozen documentaries in two mornings, then they have to be succinct, but they also have to be gripping.

Research and film

Stavisky convinced Kim Zimmer and Brian Hall to help her. Zimmer is Vail Mountain School's technology instructor. Hall runs Blue Creek Productions, the Beaver Creek Children's Theater and the Buckaroo Bonanza Bunch. In other words, he's a professional class clown.

To create a documentary, kids have to do a bunch of actual research, write it down, outline it, storyboard it, generate images to illustrate it and edit it down to a manageable size. They have to hit deadlines, stand and deliver.

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Stavisky said it moves her students beyond simple writing and research assignments and into something more creative that includes technology.

The technology, it turns out, is accessible to just about anyone. Zimmer showed the students how to do their entire project on $200 Chromebooks with an online editing program.

"They've moved from nonfiction research and writing, to being storytellers who incorporate text, music and visuals," Stavisky said. "It inspired them, and they rose to the occasion."

A look at the films

Jackson Cohn opened his film with Star Wars-style rolling text that read, "Long, Long ago in a Chromebook far, far away …" He ended by pointing at the camera convincing us that "You can do anything."

Sage Evans' film told the story of Rocky Mountain Puppy Rescue, which works out well because she adopted two puppies from there.

"They don't get thanked very much," Evans said.

Lily Thomas' grandmother works with Doberman Rescue of Nevada, so she is, too. Her film opened by getting straight to the point: "A dog is the only thing that loves you more than it loves itself."

"There were 200 Dobermans who got killed last year," Thomas said.

Gracie Johnson is a dancer with Studio 8100 and wants to be like Misty Copeland, the first African American principal ballerina.

This is the program's second year, and such as most artists and artisans, the student filmmakers get better at it the more they practice, Hall said.

"The assignment is designed so the students inspire themselves with what they learn and create and also to inspire others to strive to help others and improve themselves," Hall said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

The films and the filmmakers

• “Walk Disney: Ideas from the Heart,” by Shu Avery

• “Dwayne Johnson: A Man with a Plan,” by Sarah Katherine Baumer

• “Bethany Hamilton: A Surfer with a Strategy,” by Jordan Biggers

• “Mother Theresa: Making a Difference,” by Camila Braun

• “Sergio Perez: One Driver, Millions of Lives,” by Diego Braun

• “Rafael Nadal: More Than Just a Champion,” by Javier Braun

• “Michael Franti: Making Memories,” by Teddy Bruno

• “Vera Wang: A Woman with a Sharp Eye,” by Margaret Campbell

• “Chuck Feeney: He’s Helping Us All,” by Jackson Cohn

• “Elon Musk: A Real Life ‘Iron Man,’” by Trevor Donovan

• “Dr. Dee: Alaska, You are Lucky!” by Annabel Dorf

• “Daphne Sheldrick: Kenya’s Elephant Keeper,” by Ellie Drescher

• “Rocky Mountain Puppy Rescue: Saving Lives 365 Days a Year,” by Sage Evans

• “Gene Kranz: The Space Hero,” by Henry Falk

• “Jeff Gordon: Nascar’s Champion,” by Max Frank

• “Nancy G. Brinker: A Determined Woman,” by Isabella Gonzalez

• “The Vail Veterans Program: Can Mountains Heal People?” by Cydney Harrison

• “PAWS Chicago: Pets are Worth Saving,” by Kate Henry

• “Kathy Mikolasy: Spreading Sunshine to Kids with Disabilities,” by Victoria Holmes

• “Hentry Ford: Making America,” by Erik Jaerbyn

• “Alex Ovechkin: Putting Smiles on Faces 24/7,” by Tiki Jaffe

• “Aaron Fotheringham: ‘Wheelz,’” by Lucca Jimenez

• “Misty Copeland: A Ballerina Who is Breaking Barriers,” by Gracie Johnson

• “Mia Hamm: More Than a Soccer Player,” by Sadie Kessler

• “Steve Irwin: The Crocodile Hunter,” by Christian Mills

• “Zlatan Ibrahimovic: The Man Who Took on Starvation,” by Ryder O’Connell

• “Natalie Owings: Hearts & Souls Stay Alive,” by Anna Pratt

• “Jacques Cousteau: The Undersea Explorer,” Elizabeth Pratt

• “Winston Churchill: Motivation to Win,” by Henry Pratt

• “Bill Gates: A Man with a Bigger Dream,” by Evan Sapp

• “Johan Cruyff: Soccer’s Greatest,” by Jack Schwartz

• “Emma Watson: There’s More to Life Than Fame,” by Claire Serbinski

• “David Ortiz: Game Saving Hits, Life Saving Goals,” by Jake Stavisky

• “Malala Yousafzai: The Greatest and the Bravest,” by Ryan Stockton

• “The Doberman Rescue of Nevada: One Soul, Many Meanings,” by Lily Thomas

• “Jessy Nelson: An Indestructible Man,” by Iker Vazquez

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